Claire Ford's Story

Author: Claire Ford
Claire Ford's Story

Claire travelled to the US to look at innovative arts practices with people with dementia. Since her return she has implemented several of the programmes she observed.

The Fellowship

During 2011, Claire travelled around the USA for a total of ten weeks, observing and exploring creative access for individuals living with dementia in public spaces. Her Fellowship included visits to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC, where she experienced numerous art forms including poetry, storytelling, visual arts, theatre, dance and digital media. As Claire’s background is in Visual Arts these experiences of cross collaborative art forms really pushed her boundaries – as she says, “Who would have thought I would be dancing in a Veterans Care Facility or reading Poetry at an Intergenerational Project?”

Claire also had the opportunity to be part of the Museum of Modern Art’s pioneering Alzheimer’s Programme, which has now been implemented all across the states, and was able to see how various organisations creatively adjusted it for their audiences. She met some truly amazing individuals who were passionate about changing the diagnosis of dementia from a negative to a positive in the general community. Other organisations that Claire worked alongside included the Alzheimer’s Associations, National Centre of Creative Aging, Luther Manor, Kairos Dance, StageBridge, The Metropolitan, Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, iPod Project and many more.

The Results

One of the first projects Claire became involved with was a Dementia Storytelling Project at the Library Theatre Company in Manchester - a perfect opportunity to put into practice her new theatrical skills from her Fellowship. She also began working closely with Equal Arts, in which Alice Thwaite is also a Fellow, training Tyne and Wear Museum staff to provide accessible programmes for individuals living with dementia.

Claire also established strong connections with Lancashire Workforce Development Partnership through Katie Burgess, and has run various courses for health and social care staff to implement strong and creative programmes back into their facilities.

The Churchill Fellowship also provided Claire with the confidence to apply for Arts Council funding to launch her own project. iPad engAGE aims to promote a sense of worth, curiosity and sensory development in individuals living with dementia through the use of iPads and digital apps.

The pilot was implemented in four different care environments, with great success. Phase two of iPad engAGE was re-funded in 2013, with four trained artists employed at Abbeyfield Residential Care Homes. Two homes have extended the project, while the other two have purchased iPads and their staff are now using them proactively.

Thanks to positive publicity around the project, Claire and her team have now worked in a total of 15 different care environments, and aspire to develop this further over the next year. Claire also intends to employ and train artists in other regions of the UK to implement iPad engAGE, so that more older people can experience the benefits of this engaging, inclusive and person-centred approach.

The Winston Churchill Fellowship has really enriched my career and I aim to share, train and passionately facilitate others to do the same, making a real difference to people’s lives.